WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Saturday wraps up the nonconference schedule for Purdue and sends the Boilermakers into their tough Big Ten slate. This is no easy game, though. TCU is a Power 5 program that is no easy out.
TCU has won 11 games or more three times in the past six years. The Horned Frogs were just 7-6 a year ago, and won their season opener two weeks ago, beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39-7. Purdue will have its hands full facing a high-powered TCU offense and stout front seven Saturday night at Ross-Ade Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET. TV: Big Ten Network).
Here are five things I want to see in the final nonconference game:
1. Limit big plays
Purdue may have won last week’s home opener against Vanderbilt, but the Boilermakers once again failed to stop big plays. After giving up a 38-yard passing touchdown in the opener to Nevada, they allowed a 75-yard passing touchdown to Vanderbilt. Improving in that area is something that both head coach Jeff Brohm and cornerback Dedrick Mackey stressed throughout the week. Brohm thinks it all starts with everyone being on their toes, playing aggressive at all times and not relaxing on any plays.
We’re still early in the season, so there’s plenty of time to make corrections toward limiting explosive plays. I’m hoping it starts on Saturday against a high-powered TCU offense that can be very dangerous.
2. Improvement in the running game
Purdue’s struggles on the ground have been one of the most concerning variables through the first two weeks. They have rushed 47 times for 127 yards, an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Things won’t get any easier this week, facing a TCU front that allowed only 3.0 yards per carry in the season opener.
There’s no doubts about Purdue's passing game, so establishing a run is the next step the offense needs to take.
3. Who will step up on defense?
The Boilermakers defense took a major hit on Tuesday when they lost senior linebacker and defensive captain Markus Bailey for the season. It will be interesting to see who steps up and takes over leading this defense in his absence.
I expect it to be hybrid linebacker and defensive end Derrick Barnes. He leads the team in sacks with 1.5 and is tied for fourth in tackles with 12.
4. Increased usage for David Bell
We all know about Rondale Moore, the NCAA leader in receptions (24) and yards (344), but this Boilermaker team also has other weapons on offense. Freshman wide receiver David Bell is a dynamic pass catcher in his own right and seems to be getting more comfortable in the offense. After posting just one catch, a 49-yard touchdown against Nevada, Bell caught four passes for 82 yards against Vanderbilt.
With another week of practice under his belt, this is the week I’m looking for him to take another leap forward. Facing a smart TCU defense that will look to limit Moore, Bell stepping up would be a big boost to the offense.
5. A healthy Elijah Sindelar
Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar has been questionable all week with a concussion suffered in the victory over Vanderbilt. Brohm has confirmed that he will be a game-time decision on Saturday.
Sindelar and the potent passing attack is what makes this team go. He currently leads the NCAA in both passing yards and touchdown passes. He’s going to need to play a big role once again if the Boilermakers want to knock off TCU. If Sindelar is unavailable, redshirt freshman Jack Plummer will be asked to lead the offense.